Scarlet macaw, © María Elena Sánchez

Truth in Advertising

Defenders and partners run a successful campaign against a misleading advertisement in Mexico

One of the foremost threats to the survival of the 22 species of parrots and macaws here in Mexico is illegal trade. Thanks in great part to Defender’s report (PDF) on illegal trade of parrots in the country, Mexico banned all capture and trade of these species in 2008. Ever since then, we have carried out a national communications campaign together with environmental institutions and NGOs to inform the public not to buy wild parrots or macaws.

Parrot poachers, © Melanie Sorensen/Minnesota Zoo

Parrot poachers chop down nesting trees and cut open nesting holes to steal parrot chicks

In early March, we saw with dismay the appearance of a television advertisement that depicted the national soccer team’s coach taking possession of a yellow-cheeked parrot (a species protected by Mexican law) during a match between Mexico and Nigeria which was watched by millions. The ad came from an online classified ads company “Segundamano” owned by Spanish and Norwegians companies. The big problem with the ad is that it ended with the company’s slogan “Segundamano, where you safely buy and sell” implying that the audience could buy and sell parrots on the website. A few days after the commercial aired, several ads offering endangered and threatened parrots for sale appeared on the Segundamano’s website, including military macaws and orange-fronted parrots.

Over the past five years, we have distributed throughout the country more than 100,000 copies of posters, reading and coloring books for children, comic books for youths and adults, and stickers with information on the threats faced by parrots, asking people to help save them by not buying any wild parrot or macaw because it is illegal. Along with our conservation colleagues, we created a webpage — www.pericosmexico.org — where people can get more information about the parrots and the impacts of the trade, and we have appeared in dozens of interviews on television, radio, magazines and newspapers, as well as given talks in schools, symposiums, bird and environmental festivals, zoos, and basically anywhere where we can reach people with this important message.

Parrot poster, © Defenders of Wildlife

One of the posters we distribute to raise awareness that it is illegal to buy, sell or possess wild parrots in Mexico.

The hard work of reaching multitudes with our communications campaign was being torn asunder by a few seconds of an ad shown in a country where soccer is the foremost sport, the World Cup is just a few months away, and the spokesperson is none other than the head coach of the national team. Moreover, the ad was shown afterwards during primetime slots, and a second ad with the same storyline came out a week after the first one. Their misleading message was reaching millions of Mexicans everyday!

We united forces with other NGOs and parrot experts to present a public denunciation against this campaign with the Environmental Enforcement Agency (PROFEPA) arguing that a protected species was being used in manner that promoted illegal trade. We also presented a complaint with the Consumer Protection Agency arguing that the ad misled the public into committing a crime. We also sent letters to the Environmental Ministry, federal senators and deputies, Mexico City’s congress, Mexican Soccer Federation (FMF) and started public pressure in the media.

PROFEPA immediately responded by issuing a press release exhorting Segundamano to withdraw their campaign so as not to promote illegal trade of parrots while they investigated the legality of the case. The issue became a scandal in the sports media, and while it was taken as joke by some sports news sites, the Director of all national teams from the FMF came out to say it was all a misunderstanding and the ads had been withdrawn by the company, which turned out not to be true.

Yellow-headed parrot, © Palindrome_6996

The yellow-headed parrot, Amazona oratrix

A series of meetings ensued afterwards between PROFEPA and the NGOs; PROFEPA and the managers of Segundamano along with their lawyers and publicists, and finally between NGOs and Segundamano´s team. We explained to them the illegality and effects of the ads in the promotion of illegal trade of parrots.

Last week, PROFEPA issued a last-minute press release announcing that the company Segundamano had agreed to withdraw their ad campaign from all media. They also agreed to stop publishing any ads selling endangered or protected wildlife species, as a similar online classified ad company has done. This might seem like a common sense step, but here in Mexico (and in many countries) online trade is still very much unregulated. Companies may have internal regulations forbidding them to publish ads like these, that encourage trade of protected wildlife, but they don’t always enforce them. Instead of reviewing the ads before publishing, they rely on the complaints they receive to take the ads down, which puts the burden of time and costs for policing the website on the public and on authorities. That Segundamano and a similar company have committed to not publishing these ads anymore at all is a great blow to the illegal trade of imperiled wildlife.

Our efforts to put a stop to Segundamano’s parrot ad campaign ended successfully; they will withdraw their million dollar campaign. This is a huge step towards eliminating illegal trade of wildlife online, and hopefully all the uproar that was created in the media about promotion of illegal trade of parrots helped to reach a larger audience and teach them about the illegality of trading parrots in Mexico and the threats those parrots are facing.

Juan Carlos Cantu, Mexico Program Manager

18 Responses to “Truth in Advertising”

  1. MANUELA ALBRICCI

    LASCIATELE LIBERI E NON UCCIDETELI!! PRENDETEVENE CURA, ALTRIMENTI SI ESTINGUONO LE SPECIE. L ESSERE UMANO HA IL COMPITO DI PROTEGGERE TUTTI GLI ANIMALI NON DISTRUGGELI!!

    Reply
  2. sara lordon

    PROTECT THEIR HABITAT,SAVE THE ANIMALS FROM OURSELVES MANKIND IS TODAY DEPRIVED OF HUMANITY AND COMPASSION TOWARDS ANIMALS.THEY NEED OUR HELP.STOP THE ANIMAL HOLOCAUST

    Reply
  3. Tim Cammers

    I am pissed about this. These birds are very smart and I am tired of these idiots doing this crap. We need to get mercenaries for hire and start taking these guys out. maybe after a few of the get killed the might get the message. With all the help that we try to give. More of these parasites come out of the wood work. We need to go on a crusade against the evil that is destroying out planet and push more for new leadership and putting a end to this crap!

    Reply
  4. Marian Rowland

    Let us love and delight in the animals who share this planet with us, enrich our lives and inspire us with their beauty and endless variety. We are so graced by their
    presence and enriched by their charm!

    Reply
  5. joan

    Every effort needs to be made to enlighten kids about what is happening to the animals of our world. Most kids feel some sort of magical connection to animals. It may be a positive step forward if the many environmental organizations created a kids page on the internet that was geared towards them. It could be fun for them to learn and leave a lasting impression that they could carry forward into their teen age and adult life. If efforts are only aimed at adults progress will be slow, some adults will never change their thinking and are extremely shellfish. They have no concern for the disgusting conditions our planet is in because of humans. Caring kids make caring adults.

    Reply
  6. Maggy

    I didn’t know anything about this. I’m glad you have achieved this success for Mexican parrots. But I know of a huge petstore that sells parrots and macaws, and now I feel offended.

    Reply
  7. Adrienne

    I’m very thankful that there are people and groups that work toward protecting our beautiful animals around the world. Humans are the enemy to most creatures and the bottom line is the dollar for them. Thank you all for working toward protecting all the animals.

    Reply
  8. Sylvie from Calabasas,CA

    I believe in protecting all the beautiful creatures of our planet that are being poached and captured for PROFIT! And getting rid of these offenders, is only part of the solution. The best result against them is: DON”T BUY! no market no poaching and stealing of innocent creatures.

    Reply
  9. Ruth Griffiths

    I see this company is owned by Spain & Norway, european countries that should know better! Spain has a rotten animal wefare reputation & whale killing norway isnt any better. animal welfare laws are low in their list of priorities, Be aware of who is behind businesse & companies in this global environment.

    Reply
  10. Sandra Castaneda

    I own a small parrot. He was bred to be sold in the pet trade. I love him but if he could survive in the wild, I would release him. Birds were born to fly not live in cages.

    Reply
  11. L Lola

    I completely agree with Sandra (and other posts). I have a double-yellow headed amazon that was hatched and bred in the states. My husband commissioned it. He has died, but the bird still lives. I tried to find a place for him, and in that search, found there are hundreds, maybe thousands of these birds being kept in warehouse-like conditions (rescue folks who love birds taking the best care of them they can) because stupid, greedy, illogically-minded folks just had to have one. It hurts me every day to see this fine creature kept in a cage – even though he is outside it a lot, it isn’t where he should be…very sad, even though I give him the best home I can. Uncage the birds. Close the zoos and aviaries. Arrogant humans!

    Reply
  12. EYG

    I don’t care whether they are endangered or not. Birds should not live in cages. Period. Thank you Defenders, for your work in this area and letting the public know about this.

    Reply
  13. Donna Salerno

    Help all “wistful creatures that beat their wings against bars” to be free. A cage-bound bird is a disgrace. Ban all that would make birds into pets. Stop birds being captured, bred and sold as pets NOW.

    Reply
  14. Donna Salerno

    The caged bird sings because it is a beautiful thing that deserves to be free.

    Reply

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